A few weeks back, in my A&E Season Preview in the print IBJ, I picked as one of the highlighted events David Foster Wallace’s scheduled talk at Butler University.
That won’t be happening. The acclaimed writer, best known for his essays and his epic novel ‘Infinite Jest,’ committed suicide last week. He was 46.
When anyone electively dies, we ask ourselves why. When someone of such talent and acclaim dies, other questions are asked as well. Are artists more inclined to such action? Is the tradition of the tortured artist self-perpetuating? Does such extreme an act raise or diminish an artist’s reputation? And what can be done to keep others from seeing suicide as the logical conclusion of a creative soul?
I’m not pretending to understand what led Wallace–or Phil Ochs, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Cobain, Ernest Hemingway, Vincent van Gogh, and many others–to this final act. But I know there are ripple effects in the culture…and in our lives.